Editor’s note: Watchdog reporters invited new Towson coaches to the classroom for group interviews. Here are their stories.
By Chris Katz
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
After feeling a lump in her breast in the summer of 2012, it took 18 months, six doctor visits and three different doctors for LPGA golfer Lisa Ferrero to finally get the help she needed.
Doctors had said the lump was nothing, but on the advice of a friend Ferrero eventually asked for it to be removed. Tests revealed breast cancer, and on Valentine’s Day 2014 she had a mastectomy to remove a nine-centimeter tumor.
“When I found out, I was really mad,” Ferrero said. “I told the doctors for so long that this was not right.”
But Ferrero didn’t stay angry for long.
“If it happened to somebody, it happened to the right person,” Ferrero said. “I had the job where I could take the time off.”
Ferrero took off the 2014 season and enjoyed spending time with her family in Northern California. She mentored kids through The First Tee and Girls Golf, programs that help train future golfers and teach life skills. And she re-evaluated her career goals.
“I really enjoyed helping others more than playing, ” Ferrero said. “So when I made my comeback I was kind of like, it’s not as fun as it used to be. I thought if I could get a university job as a head coach I’d try that.”
That became a reality in August when Towson University named Ferrero as its head women’s golf coach. While other schools passed on Ferrero because of her lack of coaching experience, Towson “went out on a limb,” she said. After a 12-year professional career, Ferrero has turned her attention entirely to teaching the sport.
Ferrero’s experience from playing in high school all the way up to the highest professional level gives her the ability to empathize with golfers dealing with personal and professional challenges.
“I’ve been through everything they’ve been through and then some,” Ferrero said.
Ferrero started playing when she was just 7 years old. She was with her family while her older sister was taking a golf lesson. Her mom handed her a club and told her to just play off to the side, but the coach said he would just teach them both.
When she was a freshman in high school, she played No. 1 on the men’s varsity team, while her sister was No. 1 on the women’s varsity team as a senior. Ferrero played four years at the University of Texas before starting her professional career on the LPGA Tour.
Her playing career took her to 47 states, Australia, Spain and England — and gave her the opportunity to meet members of the Boston Red Sox and the family that owns the Pittsburgh Steelers. Drawing on those experience is part of what Ferrero said gives her an advantage as a coach.
“You can always teach them the administrative part,” Ferrero said. “But you can’t teach them the golfing part unless you’ve actually experienced it.”
Although she has helped individually train players in the past, Ferrero has never had an official coaching position before.
“I’m still learning,” Ferrero said. “This is new to me, and I’m new to them.”
Despite the lack of prior coaching experience, Ferrero is very confident in her ability to help develop her players.
“We had a strong team last year,” Ferrero said. “But I knew that I could develop the players a little more coming from the playing side of it.”
The early returns from players are positive.
“Coach [Ferrero] is a lot more easy going than our last [coach],” said Alix Lowe, a junior who has been on the team since her freshman year. “Practices are a lot more fun and we are allowed to leave early if we feel good with our practice. During tournaments, she’ll distract us from the scores or from getting too nervous.”
Lowe said she also appreciates the professional experience that her new coach brings to the table and is able to apply to her coaching technique.
“Her experience on tour helps us because she can tell us how the professionals she played with mentally prepared themselves for games in the past,” Lowe said.
With her vast experience at the highest level of the game and an aspiration to help younger players develop, Ferrero is very excited for her first year as coach.
“I feel like I have a purpose every day,” Ferrero said.
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, professional golfer Lisa Ferrero didn’t spend much time feeling sorry for herself.
“I know this sounds weird, but it happened to the right person because my sister has two kids and my younger sister is so young and just getting started with her career and her life and I had a job where I could take the time off,” Ferrero said.
Ferrero took off the 2014 LPGA season and recuperated at home in Northern California. She spent time with family and thought closely about her professional future.
“Not that anybody wants [to have breast cancer], but it wasn’t the worst thing that happened to me because I got to see what I really wanted to do in life and it reassured me that coaching was the place I wanted to be,” Ferrero said.
Three years later, Ferrero finds herself in her first full-time coaching gig leading the Towson women’s golf team. She leads a young team on the rise that is stockpiled with talent. The Tigers have been setting records at an impressive pace this season. They’ve played like the best team in the Colonial Athletic Association so far, placing in the top half of each of their three tournaments this season, and have set at least one school record in each of their last four competitions.
Ferrero said she’s still learning about how to coach effectively. “I tell [my players] everyday I’m new to this,” she said.
But she’s far from new to the sport. The Northern California native first got interested in golf after watching her older sister, Christy, practice with a professional golf trainer. Ferrero picked up the nuances of the game quickly at age 7.
“We were competitive,” Ferrero said of her relationship with her sister. “We didn’t really play on the same teams, but we did a lot of tournaments together.”
Ferrero became a scratch golfer at 13 and played throughout high school — her freshman year she played No. 1 for the men’s team while her sister was No. 1 for the women’s team. Ferrero liked basketball better than golf but was more talented at the latter. She was recruited by small colleges to play basketball, but declined in order to pursue golf.
Ferrero played four years at the University of Texas, where she earned two All-Big 12 second team honors and helped the Longhorns capture the 2004 Big 12 championship. Ferrero was ranked second at the Big 12 championships in 2005 and third in 2004. She was also selected to the NCAA All-Regional team in 2005.
Ferrero spent 12 years playing professional golf, winning the 2011 Symetra Tour Classic and the 2011 Future Tour Teva Championship. She’s also previously finished second on the money list, giving her a full tour card for the LPGA.
In 2014, she was honored with the Heather Farr LPGA Courage Award for her inspirational battle with breast cancer. The award was established in the memory of an LPGA golfer who died due to breast cancer at the age of 28 in 1993.
Ferrero spent her year away contemplating her future with the sport. She volunteered for Girls Golf and The First Tee, programs that help train youth golfers. That’s when she first gained an interest in coaching.
“I really enjoyed helping others more than playing so when I made my comeback I was kind of like it’s not as fun as it used to be and I thought if I could get a university job as a head coach, I would try that,” Ferrero said. “Towson was the only one to really go out on a limb and hire a player as opposed to a coach.”
Ferrero’s recovery from breast cancer was not easy — but it did allow her to find her new career.
“Without me going through it, I would’ve never been able to teach them,” Ferrero said. “This is new to me and I’m new to them so we’re going to learn with each other throughout the whole year.”